Release Date: August 27, 2019 [NA] / August 30, 2019 [EU]
Genre: Action, RPG
Official Website: http://spike-chunsoft.com/CRYSTAR/
Crystar - Gameplay Trailer | PS4
Who it Caters to
It’s hard to conjure up an image of a game that focuses its gameplay on the emotions of the main character, and those emotions playing an integral role in forming a narrative. However, that’s now become a reality with CRYSTAR, as the team at Gemdrops and FuRyu have created a title that has the player rely on crying to instill power into the main lead. CRYSTAR is an action-RPG title that saw its debut on the PlayStation 4 last year in Japan, and finally made its way to North America so that western fans can get a taste of the fun. Anyone of course who has dabbled with content from Spike Chunsoft or FuRyu will know that a lot of their attention isn’t really placed on visuals, but more on the overall impact that the action-RPG experience provides. So anyone who enjoys a fairly linear story with action-oriented mechanics with a unique focus around crying, definitely give this one a shot.
What to Expect
It’s quite rare to see a title place a lot of emphasis on a single emotion, which helps to power up a character or even save the world from destruction. In CRYSTAR this brand new gameplay engine allows the player to develop new skills and abilities over time by crying when something bad occurs. Crying develops what’s called ‘Idea and this is what much of the narrative is structured around. This Idea allows the player to connect to their inner soul which then activates a guardian that you can use in battles, and much more. Just as it would in real life, crying or weeping does indeed make your spirit stronger and you must fight your way through the Purgatory in order to save your sister, along with other characters you encounter on your auspicious journey.
Mirai and Rei are very close in their relationship and lived an ordinary life until suddenly the two find themselves in a word unknown to them. Rei finds herself trapped in this dark Purgatory, surrounded by the tormented souls of the dead. After realizing her true powers, Rei goes overboard and accidentally kills her sister, who then disappears into the abyss. With a strong desire to bring her sister back, Rei must now work alongside the Demons of Purgatory under their contract as an Executor and eliminate any monsters that stand in her way. By learning to confront her own dark emotions and mistakes, expressing them through her weeping, Rei must now stand tall in order to overcome the mysteries that lie deep in the Purgatory.
CRYSTAR from a visual standpoint is actually quite nice, especially in the stage design department. The team did a wonderful job of really trying to depict a dark and unforgiving underworld, while still trying to maintain an anime-like appeal for the audience. The use of purples, blues, pinks and blacks really helps to truly emphasize just how dark this world is and gives players a more immersive feel when running around in the world. Everything is already sort of mapped out for you so there’s really no open-world feel in the game. It is quite linear in that regard but overall the presentation is well done. The UI and menu screen are organized splendidly and once again don’t rob the player of the immersive experience. Character designs aren’t the most pretty but they manage to get the job done with fairly well put together animations that happen during cutscenes. So while it’s not entirely high level in terms of animation and movement, it still flows well which is a plus.
There’s certainly not going to be an award given to CRYSTAR in this category anytime soon, and that’s not to discredit the game in any significant way. It’s just that while the gameplay itself does a great job of maintaining a consistent focus, the music just didn’t seem to lure us in as much. While hacking and slashing our way through the Purgatory it really didn’t feel as if we were in a Purgatory at all, and felt more like this magical alternate world where these creatures exist. If the music had been more fitting with the overall theme of the game perhaps we’d have a much more exciting experience overall, but at times we felt like that music just didn’t match up with what was taking place.
So on a gameplay level, CRYSTAR executes it well by allowing players to build experience and level up their character, much like you would in any quintessential action-RPG title. The only major contrast comes down to the naming of things, so Idea, for example, is pretty much like XP and you’d use that to level up. As you weep in the game you also purify certain materials that can be used to upgrade weapons, etc. Whenever you encounter certain enemies within the game they often ‘curse’ you with their dark energy and so once you’re able to purify the souls of the dead, it only increases your powers gradually. These curses are known as ‘Memoirs of the Dead’ which are essentially the final thoughts of that particular soul, and so it’s your responsibility to cleanse that soul and restore peace.
Hacking and slashing monsters is a fun ordeal but we can admittedly say that over time things do start to feel a little repetitive. The character animations do feel stiff as you watch Rei attack enemies and speaking of enemies, we felt that they weren’t too clever in how they engage with the player. There were many instances where we’d simply just stop attacking and the enemy would just stand there for a few seconds before engaging. This was somewhat of a turn off for us because the game at some point stopped feeling challenging, and we could simply just hack our way through without feeling any sort of real reward.
Other than the battles you encounter while in the Purgatory, players can also return to the real-world via Rei’s room and interact with her dog, view collectibles, among other small activities. Nothing to really celebrate but it’s an added little feature that does help to bring a little balance into the mix.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Overall, CRYSTAR is a fun title that serves its purpose as a straightforward action-RPG. Its unique use of allowing the player to cry in order to grow stronger over time is a real eye-opener, and the simplicity of gameplay also helps to encourage players to keep moving ahead. Its overall lack of musical diversity, however, does take away from that dark and somewhat emotional experience, and we wish more had been done to incorporate tones that helped to better supplement the essence of weeping. The game itself isn’t too long but does serve its purpose which is to create an action-oriented playing field for players to explore, while providing a story that demonstrates the power of sibling relationships.
The action is straightforward and players can jump right into the fun.
The story is quite moving as you deal with sisters who must overcome not only the demons around them but also within themselves.
We really liked the stage designs and use of colors to really illustrate a dark and gloomy world, without undermining the whole anime theme.
The character animations felt stiff and AI just weren’t smart enough to keep up with everything happening.
The game itself is quite linear and so you’re on a set path, which really isn’t terrible but it may be a negative for some.
We wish the game did a better job of selecting music that compliments the emotional undertones of crying.
Honey's Final Verdict:
So what are your thoughts on CRYSTAR now that the game is out? We’d like to hear your point of view in the comments below so be sure to share! We definitely had a good time with the game and were really enthralled by the crying mechanic, since it’s something you’d never really come across often in the gaming world. For that ingenious approach to gameplay, we certainly tip our hats off to FuRyu and Gemdrops. We hope to see more games incorporate more emotional gameplay elements and perhaps give us something interesting to discover! That’s it for now though! Take care!
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!